Dearest Family and Friends,
I am writing you from the Partners in Health (PIH) base camp in Port-Au-Prince (PAP), sitting under my mosquito net to avoid any further unwelcomed phlebotomy.
Over the last several weeks since I arrived in Haiti, I'm sure that there have been dozens of images on television that you've seen. The vast majority of those stories probably depicted the suffering, ongoing despair, and abject misery of post "event" PAP residents. I don't want to add to those reports by yet more demoralizing stories. Instead, I want to share with you experiences I've been blessed to have that show the truly inspirational resilience of the Haitian people.
One of those first experiences took place just a couple of days after I arrived, about 10 days after the earthquake. As I rode in the back of a pick-up truck with several orthopedic surgeons, on our way to the University Hospital, I saw several young children laughing while running along a rare swath of greenery in PAP, each with his hand held high and yanking against a taut string attached to multi-colored kites soaring overhead. Imagine this scene anywhere else and you'd be amused, maybe nostalgic, but not surprised. Imagine this scene superimposed on entire city blocks that were leveled, on burning piles of trash, on schools that are now but mountains of rubble, and you'd realize that it is a sign of resilience.
For over three weeks now, my main duties have been to help triage and coordinate referrals of PIH patients who need more advanced medical care. I've been able to see so many people bravely enduring the most painful surgeries, the loss of limbs, the constant flashbacks, the untreated PTSD. Let me tell you about 15 year old Anna, my hero. Anna survived the earthquake, but sadly, her parents did not, and she only has an older brother left. She was treated at our PIH affiliated hospital in St. Marc, about two hours to the North of PAP. Despite our best efforts, we could not save her left leg below the knee. She spent weeks enduring repeated surgeries because of wound infections, all of which she braved. Today, three weeks after her amputation, Anna will be among the first PIH patients to be fitted with a prosthesis at the Albert Schweitzer Hospital in Haiti.
Today is the fifth Sunday since the catastrophe. I drove through town today with my friend, Saul. We stopped at his church, called the Brotherhood of Baptists, which is no longer usable for services but is still standing. As we drove, we witnessed dozens of festive processions led by pastors, filled with people dressed in white, reaching the skies in songs of praise. If faith is the root of resilience in times of tremendous adversity, then I am not worried about Haiti ever running out of resilience.
I want to thank you all who have been praying and supporting me during my short stay here. Many of you have given to our cause, and for that I'm deeply grateful on behalf of Partners in Health. Your support has not and will not be forgotten. It's truly been a privilege of a lifetime for me to be here, in solidarity with friends and colleagues, to bear witness to the strength of a people, neglected and oppressed for centuries, until now. Thank you for Standing With Haiti.
Phuoc V. Le MD MPH